Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Christiaan Eijkman

Christiaan Eijkman
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1929
It was at Tjilatjap that he caught malaria which later so impaired his health that he, in 1885, had to return to Europe on sick-leave.

Christiaan Eijkman was born on August 11, 1858, at Nijkerk in Gelderland (The Netherlands), the seventh child of Christiaan Eijkman, the headmaster of a local school, and Johanna Alida Pool.A year later, in 1859, the Eijkman family moved to Zaandam, where his father was appointed head of a newly founded school for advanced elementary education. It was here that Christiaan and his brothers received their early education. In 1875, after taking his preliminary examinations, Eijkman became a student at the Military Medical School of the University of Amsterdam, where he was trained as a medical officer for the Netherlands Indies Army, passing through all his examinations with honours.From 1879 to 1881, he was an assistant of T. Place, Professor of Physiology, during which time he wrote his thesis On Polarization of the Nerves, which gained him his doctor's degree, with honours, on July 13, 1883. That same year he left Holland for the Indies, where he was made medical officer of health first in Semarang later at Tjilatjap, a small village on the south coast of Java, and at Padang Sidempoean in W. Sumatra. It was at Tjilatjap that he caught malaria which later so impaired his health that he, in 1885, had to return to Europe on sick-leave.For Eijkman this was to prove a lucky event, as it enabled him to work in E. Forster's laboratory in Amsterdam, and also in Robert Koch's bacteriological laboratory in Berlin; here he came into contact with A. C. Pekelharing and C. Winkler, who were visiting the German capital before their departure to the Indies. In this way medical officer Christiaan Eijkman was seconded as assistant to the Pekelharing-Winkler mission, together with his colleague M. B. Romeny. This mission had been sent out by the Dutch Government to conduct investigations into beriberi, a disease which at that time was causing havoc in that region.

In 1883, before his departure to the Indies, Eijkman married Aaltje Wigeri van Edema, who died in 1886. In Batavia, Professor Eijkman married Bertha Julie Louise van der Kemp in 1888; a son, Pieter Hendrik, who became a physician, was born in 1890.He died in Utrecht, on November 5, 1930, after a protracted illness.

From Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1965

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